Killing Mughniyeh

Imad Mughniyeh died on Feb. 11 the way he made so many others die. His body was ripped to shreds with metal from an exploding car bomb. No doubt the ACLU would decry that as “cruel and unusual punishment,” but it can also be seen as a heartening proof that divine justice has not entirely turned its back on the world in disgust.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has denied that Israel had anything to do with Mugniyeh‘s spectacular demise in Damascus, but there is a widespread conviction in Israel as well as across the Arab and Shiite Muslim world that Israel was indeed responsible. Mughniyeh’s death certainly bears all the hallmarks of Israel’s special forces at their most efficient and relentless.

The Jerusalem Post has reported that Olmert privately congratulated Lt. Gen. Meir Dagan, current chief of staff, or Ramat-Kal, of the Israel Defense Forces,the day after the bomb went off. Israeli agents have been assassinating terrorist leaders whose hands were dyed red with the blood of innocents by means of remotely detonated bombs all the way back to their successful hunt for most of the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich Massacre of 11 athletes at the Olympic Games.

Mughniyeh’s demise bears particularly striking parallels to that of Ali Hassan Salameh, the Red Prince, the playboy terrorist who founded Yasser Arafat’s elite Force 17, in which Mughniyeh served as one of Salameh’s msot favored proteges. Salameh was also chief of operations for Black September and planned the Munich bloodbath, only to be blasted to fragments himself in the streets of Beirut on Jan. 22, 1979.

It is also striking that Mughniyeh bit the dust while Ehud Barak was defense minister of Israel. Barak is a dove on the peace process with the Palestinians. He offered Yasser Arafat far more than any other Israeli leader ever had at the woeful Camp David II peace conference in July 2000. Arafat still turned it down and soon afterwards unleashed the ferocious Second Palestinian Intifada for which he had been long preparing under the cover of the 1993-2000 Oslo Peace Process. However, Barak was also Israel‘s real-life Rambo, the most astonishingly successful commando and special operations leader the Jewish state has ever produced. It was he who pulled off the real life decimation of the PLO’s top terror leadership in Beirut in 1972 that was later fictionalized in the movie “Black Sunday.”

The Israeli liberal left is already whining that Mughniyeh should never have been offed and that it will only cause more trouble. Hitler, Stalin and Mao would have loved this kind of reasoning. In reality, the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services should have pulled out all the stops to kill him a quarter century ago. Over the years, he has accumulated far more innocent American and Arab blood on his hands, as more sensible Israeli commentators like Liat Collins and Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post have pointed out, than Jewish victims.

Mughniyeh was no nonentity. He was arguably at least as important and possibly more so, in creating the structures of 21st century Islamist terror around the world than Osama bin Laden — an unstable loner who got lucky once — ever did.

Mughniyeh had been chief of operations of Hizballah, the Shiite Party of God, in southern Lebanon since the early 1980s. He pioneered the use of shaped explosive charges, or improvised explosive devices, (IEDs) against the Israelis and later supplied that expertise to the Sunni Muslim insurgents in Iraq, with devastating consequences for U.S. troops serving there.

Mughniyeh learned his craft at the hands of Arafat and Salameh as a favored member of Force 17. He personally masterminded the truck bombing the U.S. Marine compound in Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983, killing 241 Marines as they lay sleeping and the killing that night of 58 French paratroopers in a parallel attack. He is also presumed to have played a central role in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on April 18, 1983 that killed 63 people and that same year that wiped out the CIA’s best Middle East experts during a regional conference including chief Middle East analyst Robert C. Ames and station chief Kenneth Haas.

Mughniyeh was also under indictment in this country for having organized the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, during which his terrorists tortured and, kicked to death and then for good measure shot 23-year-old U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem, a passenger on that flight. On March 16, 1984, on Mughniyeh’s orders, William Buckley — CIA station chief in Beirut — was kidnapped and later smuggled to Iran where he was tortured to death. Mughniyeh directed the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aries in 1992 that killed 29 people and the bombing of the main Jewish community center in Buenos Aries in 1994 that killed 85 people.

Mughniyeh was a brilliant administrator and a skilled diplomat of terror who was respected and trusted by the Iranian and Syrian governments. He also played a major stabilizing force in Hezbollah after it was badly un-nerved by the success of Israeli special forces during the messy and indecisive July 2006 mini-war, when the Israelis repeated U.S. tactical mistakes in Iraq and relied on air power and far too few ground troops to when they took on serious and well-entrenched enemy.

Mugnihyeh‘s death will not end the threat of Hizballah and may not even diminish it. Hamas in Gaza has gone from strength to strength even after its charismatic founder, blind Sheik Ahmed Yassin was killed on March 22, 2004. But as the Saudis have shown in their highly successful six years of crushing and repeatedly decapitating al-Qaeda in their country — a remarkable and extremely important story the mainstream U.S. media has totally missed — if you keep cutting off the heads of the hydra, the monster does eventually run out of brains and blood.

Mughniyeh’s death also confirms a trend that has been noted since Barak — a poor prime minister but clearly still an effective hard-charger as a tactical military leader — took over in the Kirya, the nerve-center of the IDF in Tel Aviv. Syria is now an open hunting ground for the Israeli Air Force and Special Forces. During the July 2006 mini-war, they proved as exceptionally competent as ever in deep penetration missions and precision strikes even while the regular Israeli ground forces gave a lackluster performance. As they have, ever since they reached out across the world to seize Adolf Eichmann in 1960 and haul him to Jerusalem to be convicted and hanged for organizing so much of the Holocaust, the Israelis once again showed that they would not rest or relent till they got their man, however long it took.

Perhaps we should sub-contract the hunt for Bin Laden to them.